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Zeal For Adventure: A Conversation With Air New Zealand

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

Why are the "best years" of your life so banal? You do not sleep enough, stare at screens, and remain sedentary. The only exploring occurs on your web browser. The only observation you do is when you are forced to attend the company-wide town hall. The culmination of the adventure you experience is looking at other's social media pages. If these are the wonder years, why do we feel stuck? Sometimes you need a sky-level perspective to readjust your philosophy.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

For over 100 years, Air New Zealand has transformed tourists into travelers. When you board its domestic and international fleet, Air New Zealand lets you see what makes life meaningful. When flying from North America and Europe to Oceania, you enter a world that values nature, connection, and innovation. I spoke with Jeremy O'Brien to learn more about how Air New Zealand incorporates its mission and vision into its services.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

1. What makes Air New Zealand different from other airlines?

Our team's north star is to connect New Zealanders with each other and the world. Air New Zealand helps foster domestic and international economic growth by operating at 21 New Zealand airports and offering international flights to Asia, North America, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. We are an iconic New Zealand brand that is not only a part of the country's DNA but also applies its core purpose and values to every facet of the company's decision-making. We call this our brand promise, Manaaki – taking care further than any other airline.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

There are four core values that underpin the delivery of our brand promise and are well understood by all Air New Zealanders and bought to life within the business through the use of Whakatauki or Maori proverbs. These values are;

  • Can Do (Whāia te iti kahurangi) which translates to Strive for what matters most and don’t let obstacles get in your way.

  • Be Yourself (inspired by He toa takitini), which translates to Be proud of who you are and where you have come from.

  • Welcome As A Friend ( a phrase derived from the proverb Ko au ko koe, ko koe ko au), and means I am you, you are me – we are one.

  • Share Your Aotearoa (coming from the Māori's principle Ko Aotearoa engunguru nei)—Aoeteora is the Māori pronunciation of New Zealand, which translates to Land of Long White Cloud. We bring our values to life through Kaupapa Tiaki (the Māori phrase that means Topic of Caring for People and Places). In Māori culture, people learn about Kaupapa Tiaki through legends, myths, and stories.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

Our team performs their responsibilities in a uniquely Kiwi fashion. At Air New Zealand, we connect with ourselves and the outside world through the lessons learned in Kaupapa Tiaki. Our pilots, flight crews, and staff want to tell our guests stories about the hidden gems and world wonders. The value of Be Yourself sets us apart. We allow employees to follow their intuitions and let their personalities shine. At Air New Zealand, we respect our indigenous communities and want our flyers to apply Manaaki by learning the Tiaki promise – to care for the people, places, and culture of Aotearoa.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

2. Where does Air New Zealand draw inspiration for its onboard experiences?

At Hanger 22 (Air New Zealand's innovation lab), our team develops and prototypes ideas and services for our flights. Hanger 22 puts a particular emphasis on user-centric design. When someone boards one of our aircraft (which we also call Waka Rererangi, a Māori term meaning flying canoe), Air New Zealand designed an end-to-end experience to promote hydration, sleep ritual, and nutritious food options.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand's Instagram page.)

Hanger 22 also develops the latest in aviation innovation. Over ten years ago, Air New Zealand created the sky couch idea and then licensed it to other airlines. The sky coach allows people (especially young families) in our economy section to have an enjoyable experience.

(Image courtesy of Air New Zealand)

We also draw inspiration from New Zealand's flora and fauna when creating our onboard experiences. For example, we designed our cabin experience based on the Tūī, a native mid-size New Zealand bird. Each of our three cabins options has taken an element from the Tūī for the flight. In economy, guests experience is inspired by the Tūī's beautiful songs to uplift their travels. For the Premium Economy cabin, the Tūī's cloak was the basis of designing features that provide warmth and shelter, and for Business Premium, the Tui nest inspires customers with comfortable surroundings.

(Image courtesy of Sid Modsell. The image depicts the Tui bird.)

3. What is the future of the company?

2023 has been a great year commercially. Yet, it is essential to remember how travel dynamics have changed due to the pandemic. Today, Air New Zealand's business strategy has evolved over three stages: Survive, Revive, and Thrive. During the pandemic, we were in the Survive phase. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to let four thousand employees go. We operated at 5% capacity. Today, we are in the Revive phase as we reopened our international flights and restored our domestic capacity to 100%. To continue to grow into the Thrive phase, we will look towards implementing sustainability initiatives by looking for alternative power sources for short-range domestic flights. We will continue to improve our core service proposition by introducing global baggage tracking and continuing to engage our audiences on digital platforms.

(Video courtesy of Air New Zealand.)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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